Shore Sports Network logo
Get our free mobile app

BRIDGEWATER -- The loss itself was bad enough, but the final score made it that much worse. The image of the scoreboard revealing a 16-goal margin of defeat was seared into the memories of the returning Rumson-Fair Haven players.

The Bulldogs wanted another crack at Mountain Lakes after last season's devastating Tournament of Champions loss, but they weren't sure they'd get the opportunity in 2023. The T.O.C. was scrapped by the NJSIAA and the Lakers and Bulldogs were in separate group classifications. That was until the updated regulations put both teams into Group 1. Suddenly, Rumson and Mountain Lakes appeared to be on a collision course

Their chance at redemption arrived on Friday afternoon, and with a state championship on the line the Bulldogs delivered a gem.

Senior attackman Cole Cashion scored four goals and assisted on another, junior midfielder Andry Croddick tallied three goals and one assist, and junior FOGO Luke Marascio and senior goalie Marshall Halfacre had several clutch moments as the Bulldogs exacted a measure of revenge by defeating Mountain Lakes, 12-6, to claim the NJSIAA Group 1 state championship on Friday at Bridgewater-Raritan's John Basilone Memorial Field.

After losing to Mountain Lakes, 21-5, in the final T.O.C. championship game last season, Rumson turned the tables on the Lakers to win their second straight state title and third overall.

"Last year, especially that scoreboard, it means something really personal to us," Cashion said, "It feels great getting this win."

"Our goal all year long was to win Group 1 no matter who we were playing and it just so happened we were playing Mountain Lakes," said senior defenseman Beau Kemler. "But that does make it even sweeter."

Robert Badders
Robert Badders

Senior attackman Bryce Devlin scored twice and added an assist, sophomore attackman Grayson Goldin had a goal and an assist, and junior midfielder Leo Passalaqua and junior LSM Brody Page each scored once. Halfacre made eight saves and Marascio went 11-for-21 at the face-off X to help Rumson win the middle of the field. Rumson led 3-1 after the first quarter, 8-2 at halftime, and 10-3 heading to the fourth quarter where the Dawgs were able to absorb a brief Mountain Lakes rally and close with the game's final two goals.

While the Tournament of Champions is no more, New Jersey will still play down to one boys lacrosse champion via the inaugural Kirst Cup. The six state champions will be seeded into a bracket with the top two seeds receiving byes. Rumson will likely earn the No. 2 seed behind the winner of the Non-Public A final between No. 1 Seton Hall Prep and No. 2 Delbarton. If so, Rumson would receive a bye into the semifinals and play its next game on Thursday, July 15, at Kean University.

After waiting 361 days for a chance at payback, Rumson's senior class led the way with Cashion, Kemler, Halfacre, Devlin, senior defenseman Luke Jamin, and senior midfielder Zach Iwan playing impact roles in the biggest game of the season.

"I love them," said Rumson head coach Marc Moreau. "They lost their freshman year but this senior class really started to understand culture and what it means to be a successful program. They saw that and they took it and ran with it. We have really good lacrosse players, we have really good athletes, but we don't have 30 of them. What has really got us to this point where we're not just in a sectional final or in the group final - we're winning them, two in a row now - is the culture. It's what they do off the field, how they challenge each other, how they support and interact with each other.

"All the intangibles that have nothing to do with catching and throwing the lacrosse ball are what I feel have set this team apart. They had the ability to come back after such disappointment last year and get a taste of revenge."

"This team truly is special," Cashion said. "Coach says it all the time, each win buys us another week with the team. It's special to me. I love these guys and another week with my brothers means a lot."

Robert Badders
Robert Badders

Rumson was able to flip the script on Mountain Lakes by beating the Lakers at their own game, winning the middle of the field and using a tenacious ride to generate additional possessions. Last season, the Hernando brothers, Justin and Jordan, combined to win 26 of 29 face-offs for Mountain Lakes in the T.O.C. final. Right away on Friday, Marascio made it clear that wasn't going to happen again. Rumson earned the first possession of the game and was able to get several clean looks. The Bulldogs didn't score, but they established a tone. Marascio caught fire in the second quarter to win 5 of 6 draws as Rumson built a six-goal lead.

"Luke is truly an energy starter," Cashion said. "Last year they went 26-for-29 and we'll never forget that stat. Luke coming in and doing his job started the fire."

"Last year we won one face-off and where Luke was at in his development we couldn't even put him in the game," Moreau said. "That kid has worked so hard, not just on the technical aspect of being a face-off kid, but when he gets it he can handle the ball and if he gets stuck on defense he's athletic and can defend. He worked at it, drove up to Chatham once a week from the time we lost last June until March working with the Face-Off Academy, working with the best kids in North Jersey. He put the time and effort in and it really shows. That kid (Hernando) is really good that he went up against and he made him look average. How many false starts did that kid have? A lot. For a kid who's that good, what does that tell you?"

Even though the early returns were encouraging, it was still a scoreless game when Mountain Lakes pushed transition and took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Nick Fidacaro 2:58 into the game. Frustration? Maybe. But there certainly wasn't any panic. Croddick netted the equalizer less than two minutes later, Cashion set up Goldin for a goal at 3:33, and Cashion scored in transition with 2:21 on the clock to give Rumson a 3-1 lead entering the second quarter.

Robert Badders
Robert Badders

"There were some flashbacks when they went up 1-0 but we knew we had to persevere through it and get the job done," Cashion said. "We just kept to our offense and kept firing and eventually they started going in."

"I honestly think the first possession settled us, that we had the ball and were running our offense and were getting looks we felt we would get," Moreau said. "They are a tremendous riding team and a tremendous ground ball team, and we talked about meeting their intensity in what they do and then exceeding it. I really think we did that."

Rumson opened it up in the second quarter on goals by Croddick and Page in the first three minutes. Devlin then buried a setup from Croddick at 8:09 to stretch the Bulldogs' lead to 6-1. Kevin Gillespie scored for Lakes to break Rumson's five-goal run, but RFH answered with goals by Cashion at 7:15 and Passalaqua at 3:46 to head into halftime with an 8-2 advantage.

After allowing the early transition goal, Rumson's defense was locked in and yielded almost nothing in settled 6-on-6 play. It was a thorough first half that put them in position to dictate the final two quarters.

"On defense, our motto every quarter is let's make the most out of the first two minutes, and that's what we did in all four quarters," Kemler said.

The third quarter progressed with no scoring until the 5:09 mark when Devlin scored a transition goal off an assist from freshman attackman Luke Lydon with a hat tip to Goldin, who led the fast break. Less than a minute later, Cashion found twine for his third goal of the game and a 10-2 Rumson lead. Jimmy Elliot scored a 6-on-4 goal for Mountain Lakes with 2:12 left and RFH took a 10-3 lead into the final quarter.

Rumson had 12 minutes to lock up a state championship, and while Mountain Lakes made it interesting with the first three goals of the quarter to close the gap to 10-6, the Bulldogs received some big saves from Halfacre and goals by Cashion and Croddick to ice the championship and send them to the Kirst Cup.

Halfacre finished with eight saves, three of which came during the fourth quarter. A football standout who will play collegiately on the gridiron, Halfacre was the No. 2 goalie until returning starter Will Setteducate was injured halfway through the season. Halfacre stepped in and the team hasn't missed a beat.

"I think a lot of it is the support his teammates have given him and the trust they have in him," Moreau said. "No one wavered and said our season is over because Will went down. They knew Marshall was going to get into the cage and he was going to do fine. And he continues to get better, he's not just out there filling a spot. He did things today he hasn't done in the previous 14 games and he made some big saves in key moments where the momentum could have swung."

Redemption is a fitting word to describe Rumson's journey back to a state championship, but Kemler was quick to remind everyone that the Bulldogs aren't done yet.

"It feels great because this is what we've worked for, but this game wasn't full redemption," Kemler said. "Everyone wasn't to play in that (overall title) game and there's only six teams that can make it out of over 200 in the state, so we're super grateful to be in it and that it's back. As seniors, it's our last ride and we're going to give it the best shot we got."

Robert Badders
Robert Badders


More From Shore Sports Network